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Summit   By: (1917-1983)

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Illustrated by Freas


Almost anything, if it goes on long enough, can be reduced to, first a Routine, and then, to a Tradition. And at the point it is, obviously, Necessary.

Two king sized bands blared martial music, the " Internationale " and the "Star Spangled Banner," each seemingly trying to drown the other in a Götterdämmerung of acoustics.

Two lines of troops, surfacely differing in uniforms and in weapons, but basically so very the same, so evenly matched, came to attention. A thousand hands slapped a thousand submachine gun stocks.

Marshal Vladimir Ignatov strode stiff kneed down the long march, the stride of a man for years used to cavalry boots. He was flanked by frozen visaged subordinates, but none so cold of face as he himself.

At the entrance to the conference hall he stopped, turned and waited.

At the end of the corridor of troops a car stopped and several figures emerged, most of them in civilian dress, several bearing brief cases. They in their turn ran the gantlet.

At their fore walked James Warren Donlevy, spritely, his eyes darting here, there, politician like. A half smile on his face, as though afraid he might forget to greet a voter he knew, or was supposed to know.

His hand was out before that of Vladimir Ignatov's.

"Your Excellency," he said.

Ignatov shook hands stiffly. Dropped that of the other's as soon as protocol would permit.

The field marshal indicated the door of the conference hall. "There is little reason to waste time, Mr. President."

"Exactly," Donlevy snapped.

The door closed behind them and the two men, one uniformed and bemedaled, the other nattily attired in his business suit, turned to each other.

"Nice to see you again, Vovo. How're Olga and the baby?"

The soldier grinned back in response. "Two babies now you don't keep up on the real news, Jim. How's Martha?" They shook hands.

"Not so good," Jim said, scowling. "I'm worried. It's that new cancer. As soon as we conquer one type two more rear up. How are you people doing on cancer research?"

Vovo was stripping off his tunic. He hung it over the back of one of the chairs, began to unbutton his high, tight military collar. "I'm not really up on it, Jim, but I think that's one field where you can trust anything we know to be in the regular scientific journals our people exchange with yours. I'll make some inquiries when I get back home, though. You never know, this new strain I guess you'd call it might be one that we're up on and you aren't."

"Yeah," Jim said. "Thanks a lot." He crossed to the small portable bar. "How about a drink? Whisky, vodka, rum there's ice."

Vovo slumped into one of the heavy chairs that were arranged around the table. He grimaced, "No vodka, I don't feel patriotic today. How about one of those long cold drinks, with the cola stuff?"

"Cuba libra," Jim said. "Coming up. Look, would you rather speak Russian?"

"No," Vovo said, "my English is getting rusty. I need the practice."

Jim brought the glasses over and put them on the table. He began stripping off his own coat, loosening his tie. "God, I'm tired," he said. "This sort of thing wears me down."

Vovo sipped his drink. "Now there's as good a thing to discuss as any, in the way of killing time. The truth now, Jim, do you really believe in a God? After all that's happened to this human race of ours, do you really believe in divine guidance?" He twisted his mouth sarcastically.

The other relaxed. "I don't know," he said. "I suppose so. I was raised in a family that believed in God. Just as, I suppose, you were raised in one that didn't." He lifted his shoulders slightly in a shrug. "Neither of us seems to be particularly brilliant in establishing a position of our own."

Vovo snorted. "Never thought of it that way," he admitted. "We're usually contemptuous of anyone still holding to the old beliefs... Continue reading book >>

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